Denver and Dazzle will soon be making great music together.
In late November, Dazzle will pack up and move out of its current downtown core, moving just two blocks to 1080 14th Street, where it will become a tenant of the Denver Performing Arts Complex under a decade-long lease with Denver. Arts & Venues, which operates the municipal complex.
At a time when many venues are struggling and some have completely given up, including iconic jazz club El Chapultepec, this deal seems particularly interesting.
Dazzle got its start 25 years ago, when Karen Storck and Miles Snyder opened a restaurant/bar at 930 Lincoln Street in the former home of Fuji En, a Japanese restaurant. Although he did not feature live music, Snyder created a soundtrack for Dazzle with jazz CDs from his extensive home music collection.
In 2001, Donald Rossa, who had previously worked for restaurants Fourth Story, Piatti and Sfuzzi, was appointed managing partner. Dazzle quickly became a favorite haunt for happy hours and late-night gatherings (since it was only a block from the Westword office, we were regulars), but this 9/11, as news of the terrorist acts on the East Coast arrived, the scene was much darker. It was then that Rossa decided that Dazzle should start hosting live jazz.
“I said, ‘We’re going to celebrate being American and our original art form is jazz,'” he said. Westword in January, when Dazzle officially celebrated its 25th anniversary. “And Miles said he was okay with that, because Miles taught me jazz. I didn’t know anything about it. I was a rocker.
Rossa contacted famous local trumpeter Bob Montgomery, who gave her a list of phone numbers of other local jazz musicians. Initially, Dazzle hosted live jazz four nights a week at its bar; over the next year, another stage was added in its second venue, and the venue expanded its live music schedule to every night of the week.
Rossa became the sole owner of Dazzle in 2003; soon after, he interviewed Matt Ruff, a transplant from El Paso, for the job of general manager at a performance of the Future Jazz Project. “I remember being blown away by the band, but also by the location,” says Ruff, who is now also a Dazzle partner, along with Austin Andres and Jan Cleveland.
But a decade later, the physical limitations of this place were beginning to hamper Dazzle’s style. Around the same time, David Spira, who had purchased the circa 1891 Baur’s Building at 1512 Curtis Street in 2004, was closing Baur’s Listening Lounge, which he had run since 2015. Spira invited Rossa to view the space, and within two months they reached an agreement. Dazzle moved downtown in May 2017.
This space came with its own challenge, however. While the Golden Triangle spot was more of a neighborhood bar, the new Dazzle was more of a destination — with a lot more space, including a huge kitchen. And just as they were fixing the problems and starting to make a profit again, the pandemic hit.
The community helped keep Dazzle afloat, Rossa recalls, whether by raising $40,000 for employees through a GoFundMe page or securing a grant from the Live Music Society. But Dazzle also helped the community with its Bread & Jam program, a setup through which local musicians could get a free meal and groceries from its food pantry. When it couldn’t hold live shows, Dazzle offered virtual concerts and other programs. And when Dazzle was again named Best Jazz Club in the 2021 Best of Denver, that award was especially heartfelt.
“We took care of a lot of people who just didn’t have the money,” Rossa recalls. “I hope it brought the community together a lot closer. I think that’s what this industry is all about.
And now, Dazzle will be even closer to the city’s cultural community. Throughout the summer, he’s collaborated with Denver Arts & Venues on the Galleria’s lineup, offering a taste of what could be to come at the end of this year, even though the deal hasn’t been announced. as August 13.
Work is already underway on the space, which most recently housed the controversial Onyx Ultra Lounge, which lost its lease with the city in 2019. The Green Room is in place and stage construction – a more intimate setting than at Baur, with large sightlines – began. There will be a bar where people can meet over a cocktail and chat (with all the restaurants nearby, cooking is not a priority), as well as a piano lounge tucked away in the corner.
Until it moves into the new space – the exact date depends on permissions and the construction schedule – Dazzle at Baur’s will continue to offer its usual range (see here). In its new home, Dazzle will be able to present even more music, with a dozen shows a week in the club itself and larger concerts in other theater spaces at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Although it may leverage marketing from Denver Arts & Venues, Dazzle will remain independent.
“Dazzle’s hit record is a terrific addition to the arts complex’s programming,” said Ginger White, Executive Director of Denver Arts & Venues. “We are all thrilled with the unique touch that Dazzle can bring to the cultural life of our neighborhood.”
“Dazzle is our gift to Denver,” says Rossa. “We are grateful to live music enthusiasts for trusting us to manage these musical programs for so long. As we look to the next ten years, Dazzle’s move to the Denver Performing Arts Complex allows us to offer more great musical performance opportunities and continuing to support local musicians.”
Music to our ears.
Editor’s note: This piece features part of Jon Solomon’s 25th Anniversary Salute to Dazzle.